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Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Bugging out in Basra. Mission accomplished.
Topic: Iraq

AFP reports:

"BASRA, Iraq (AFP) - The British military will transfer security control of the southern province of Basra to Iraqi forces on Sunday, Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told reporters on Wednesday. 'The handover of Basra will take place on December 16,' Dabbagh said."

 Gosh, that was sudden! But what about MSR Tampa?

Earlier on, in Spetember, IHT reported:

"As British troops pull out of their last base in Basra, some military commanders and civilian government officials in the area are concerned that the transition could leave them and a major supply route to Baghdad [MSR Tampa] at greater risk of attack . . . According to officers at the U.S. 3rd Army forward headquarters in Kuwait, which oversees the vast shipments of supplies flowing north into Iraq, on any given day more than 3,000 vehicles are on the road in convoys hauling food, fuel, ammunition and other equipment."

That could be a problem, no?

Because, the British plan on not only bugging out of Basra but also of getting out of the country entirely by the end of the year, if not sooner. The British say their job is basically done. During his "surprise" visit to British troops in Iraq, UK PM Gordon Brown said: "It's because of all the operations we have done over the past few months that the security situation has not only improved, but he is now recommending a move to provincial Iraqi control within two weeks."

Right. . . 

The Journal-Standard reports:

"The police chief of Iraq's southern Basra province acknowledged Thursday that his forces lack the means to maintain security in the region after a British troop withdrawal later this month. . . 'I'm faced with a lot of hardships,' Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf, commander of the Basra Police Division, told The Associated Press. 'Frankly speaking, we have rifles, machine-guns and a few armored vehicles, which aren't as advanced as the British weaponry and are insufficient to maintain full control of the province.' So far, in tough situations, he said Iraqi police have had to rely on calling in 'support from Baghdad' or the U.S.-led coalition."

Additionally, Maj-Gen Khalaf told the BBC "There is a terrible repression against women in Basra. . . .They kill women, leave a piece of paper on her or dress her in indecent clothes so as to justify their horrible crimes"

BBC: "Forty-two women were killed between July and September this year, although the number dropped slightly in October, he said."

So, you see, the security situation in Basra is cleary under control.

Good luck with getting any help from the government in Baghdad to curb these abuses against women. Many of al-Maliki's buddies in government  think women are getting a little too uppity these days anyway. 

And Good luck with geting help from the Americans. U.S. General David Patraeus is also contemplating the improved security situation in his neck of the woods and has plans to begin pulling five combat brigades out of Iraq by the end of the summer. Patraeus seems to think even without the British presence down south things will be fine.

Coalition and Iraqi security forces can get the job done. Naturally, Patraeus said that during his visit to London in September he and his UK counterparts would "talk tasks" and that "among the tasks is the need to continue line-of-communications security, certainly."

Certainly, but what about the situation in Maysan province, the area the Brits turned over to the Iraqi in April? Could this be any indication of what we might have in store for us in the near furture in Basra?

AFP reports:

"Four car bombs killed at least 33 people in Iraq on Wednesday, including 28 in the southern city of Amara [the capital of Maysan]. Triple car bombs in Amara killed at least 28 people and wounded another 151, 10 of them children, said Zamil Shia'a al-Oreibi, director general of Amara health department. Amara police Lieutenant Ali Kadhim Hassan said the bombs exploded within minutes of each other, the first going off at 10:30 am (0730 GMT)."  

It seems to me both the Brits and us are trying to use this little interlude of relative peace (and I do mean relative) in Iraq as cover to bug out. In the case of Gordon Brown, he figures he doesn't want to take over ownership of the Blair's debacle so he's more than happy to get out. Patraeus has taken ownership of Bush quagmire but he's on the clock. There is no way he doesn't drive the Army into the ground if he keeps the kind of troop levels he's got now past the summer.

Everybody is crossing their fingers and toes hoping things hang on long enough to bow out gracefully. It all looks like wishful thinking to me. Let's see what happens once provincial elections are allowed to go ahead.

But what about MSR Tampa? Our lines of communication are a little precarious right now. We're hoping the Turks keep playing ball in the north and in the south?

Well, Lieutenant Colonel James Hutton, a spokesman for the Multinational Corps-Iraq, says he's noted a "recent drop in both the number and effectiveness of attacks on these convoys." He credits this on "aggressive patrolling" and Muqtada al-Sadr's recent retolling cease-fire which Hutton says might lead to "further reductions of violence in the southern provinces."

That's a pretty thin reed to hold on to: Let's hope Muqtada behaves himself?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:15 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007 4:00 PM EST
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Friday, 10 November 2006
Bechtel leaves Iraq and Rummy's bowing out: Connection?
Topic: Iraq

Well, Rummy's not in jail yet, but getting the sack -- sorry, I mean "resiging" --  is a good start. You know, when the news came out that Bechtel was leaving Iraq, I should have known Rummy would be next in line. 

We all remember the good work Rummy did for bechtel back in 1983 going over to Iraq and meeting with Saddam and Tariq Aziz ( Where is Aziz anyway?). Rummy's job was to try and convince Saddam go along with bechtel's plan to build a pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba Jordan. According to the records, the US and Saddam's Iraq "shared many common interests" and the Reagan administration had a "willingness to do more" for Iraq in its war with Iran.  [NSA] You betcha. And apparently they were intersted in helping out Iran in their war against Iraq, but that's another story. [See Walsh Iran/Contra report on Robert Gates.]

Speaking of bechtel; they're pulling out of Iraq after three years of living off the largess of the American taxpayer. Thye went in there with one of those fuzzy non-bid contracts the Rummy/Cheney cabal were so fond of giving to their former companies. The Atimes reports that after recieving almost 2.3 billion dollars for US taxpayers to reconstruct Iraq (which we destroyed in the first place):

 "The average household in Iraq now gets two hours of electricity a day. There is 70% unemployment, 68% of Iraqis have no access to safe drinking water, and only 19% have sewage access. . . The group Medact recently said that easily treatable conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory illness are causing 70% of all child deaths, and that 'of the 180 health clinics the US hoped to build by the end of 2005, only four have been completed - and none opened.' . . A proposed $200 million project to build 142 primary-care centers ran out of cash after building just 20 clinics, a performance the World Health Organization described as 'shocking'. "

The same could probably said for Rummy's running of the pentagon over these past 6 years. It's pretty shocking that he didn't feel there was any probelm with all the looting that went on -- the oil ministry was secured -- after the fall of Saddam, or the decision to fire the Iraqi army, or the Abu Ghraib scandal, or the lack of body armor, which could have saved the lives of 80% of the Marines who died fighting in Anbar up until last year.

The list goes on and on, but he's did a "fantastic" job. Helluva job Rummy, now get lost!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:39 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006 1:42 PM EST
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Friday, 13 October 2006
The lightning round:
Topic: Iraq

 [These are some random thoughts I've been cogitating on over the past week or so, but I haven't had to chance to post them.] 

Operation 'Save Rummy's ass':  

I read in the NYT a few days ago that W.'s special Iraq commission, led by James Baker III, won't be reporting to W. or Congress on its findings until after the mid-term elections. We've only been there for three and half years, after all, we don't want to rush into anything. I'm sure the soldiers being held over, long after their tours are up; to fight the "Battle of Baghdad" will appreciate the political realities of the situation. Of course, instead of calling the present operation "Together Forward," a better name might be "Operation Save the GOP Majority." Now that's something worth dying for, eh?  

They've stood up, we're not standing down: 

Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson told reporters that over the past two years 4,000 Iraqi policemen have been killed by insurgents and 8,000 have been wounded. In 2005 alone 1,497 were killed and 3,256 were wounded. Peterson says, "They have paid a great price yet Iraqis are signing up as recruits everyday." So my question is; are they incredibly patriotic or just desperate to have any kind of job at all? Who in their right mind would want to be an Iraqi policeman? [Hear an Anne Garrels report on Iraqi policemen from ATC to find out]  

In any case, supposedly there are some 300,000 Iraqis now trained and ready to go, so why aren't we going?  John Warner, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said after a one-day visit to over there that the situation in Iraq was "drifting sideways." Warner suggests the US should consider a "change of course" in Iraq. Gosh, you think? Now the last time I checked Warner was a staunch supporter of the president and his policies in Iraq, so what's going on here? Besides Rummy, W., Cheney and Henry Kissinger, is there anyone left that thinks we should still be in Iraq?

 Getting ready to fight the last war: 

The US Army has reworked its strategy to fight the insurgency. AP reports that a new field manual to be released later this month "emphasizes the importance of nonmilitary solutions, such as promoting economic development and making sure basic services are restored to deprive insurgents of support. It also urges interaction with the Iraq people." Hey, that's great I'm happy to see after three years of screwing up royally and the deaths of 2,700 US troops we're finally getting around to developing a strategy to deal with the insurgency in Iraq. Of course, the issue now is that the biggest challenge facing us today is the fight against the various battling religious militias. Have we got a strategy for that?  

The NYT reports that there is a worry within the military establishment that all this emphasis on insurgency fighting is taking attention away from fighting regular wars. The NYT: "The Army is stretched so thin and so many units are focused on rehearsing for Iraq and Afghanistan at the training center that concerns have grown that the Army may be raising a new group of officers with little experience in high-intensity warfare against heavily equipped armies like North Korea."      Another problem with the new thinking on fighting the insurgency is that there aren't enough troops to get the job done. Gen. Jack Keane, a former acting chief of staff, told the NYT that, "the Army does not have nearly enough resources, particularly in terms of people, to meets its global responsibilities while making such a commitment to irregular warfare."  

That's alright, if anyone is worried about what might happen next in North Korea, have no fear. Speaking last year on the subject of pulling several thousand troops out of South Korea for redeployment to Iraq, W. said we have "capacity" in Northeast Asia:

"We've got good capacity in Korea. We traded troops for new equipment, as you know: we brought some troop -- our troop levels down in South Korea, but replaced those troops with more capacity."  We don't need no stinkin' heavily equipped army to fight in Korea; we've got "capacity."  I feel reassured, but W. says we're not going to attack the Hermit Kingdom anyway. Just in case, though, perhaps Japan will just go ahead and build a warhead or two, just to be on the safe side.  

[Reuters, 8/7/06: "The United States will lower troop levels in South Korea beyond a previously agreed reduction to 25,000, but the cut will not be 'substantial,' a senior defense official said on Monday. . . The official said the cut was possible due to South Korea's improved capabilities [i.e. they're better cannon fodder], and noted that judgments about the threat posed by North Korea were driving changes in the U.S.-South Korean military relationship.]

The forgotten war?  

It may be difficult to hear the explosions of a US military munition dump blowing up in Baghdad over the rumble of the North Korean nuclear test, but things are going from bad to worse in Iraq again. Not to worry, though, General George Casey, standing with Rummy at a press conference today, says progress is coexisting with chaos in Iraq. Also progressing is the number of US troop casualties. Over the past month we've suffered over 776 injured and over a hundred dead. In just the first 11days of October the number of US dead is 44. 

Of course, I guess this type of thing is to be expected when you're engaging the enemy. So says the pentagon, anyway. From where I'm sitting it looks like we're getting ourselves into a much bigger version of Fallujah.  It is pretty amazing that having taken Baghdad three years ago, having fought two Fallujahs, several Ramadis and a few Tal Afars, we're at the point where we find ourselves again re-fighting the Battle of Baghdad. General George Casey explains that Baghdad: "Is the center of gravity for the country. Everybody knows that. The bad guys know it, we know it, and the Iraqis know it. So we have to help the Iraqis secure their capital if they're going to go forward."  

My question is; which Iraqis exactly are we helping? I mean, we're going after the Sunni insurgents; we're going after al-Qaeda (remember them?); we're battling the Shiites, infiltrated into the security forces -- which we've spent the last two years arming and training -- and we're going after the Mahdi army; so who's left?  There's the Iraqi military which is apparently more or less on the government's side, but the government itself is the problem. What exactly are we spending all this blood and treasure for if the PM of the country is beholden to one of the main militia leaders? How can we be fighting the Mahdi Army at the same time we're propping up the very government the leader of that militia is a part of? 

Body count wars: 

A new Johns Hopkins University study published in the British magazine The Lancet says the number of Iraqis killed as a result of our invasion of Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands. [NYT] The exact amount isn't known for sure but it could be anywhere from 300,000 to 900,000. Naturally, W. has an answer for that: "the methodology" used in the study "is pretty well discredited." They're just "guessing" about these numbers he says. Of course, how would he know anything about the methodology used, in the first place, and who is he to talk about credibility?  All the information he gets about the war is filtered through Cheney and when he does get bad news the barer of that news is shown the door, so who am I going to believe: The guy who told us Saddam had nukes or a group of scientists who risked life and limb to go door to door in the hellhole W.'s lies created to count the dead?  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:56 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006 12:04 PM EDT
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Saturday, 30 September 2006
War not going so well?
Topic: Iraq

So, things are once again going swimmingly in Iraq. This week there have been over 150 bodies found scattered all over Baghdad showing signs of torture; suicide bombings are at an all time high; Muqtada al-Sadr is losing his grip on the Madhi Army, because he's too moderate; we've lost 20 US troops since last Sunday; and the new judge overseeing the "trial" of Saddam has lost his brother-in-law, who was shot on a Baghdad street yesterday.  

The big trench the Iraqis are building around Baghdad is almost complete and the government has issued another one of its famous curfews banning not only vehicular travel, but also pedestrian traffic. That's a new one. In a puzzling development, the commander of US forces in Anbar province told the press that the insurgency will be defeated but not by the US military. Army Col. Sean B. McFarland said,” An insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat in a finite period of time. It takes a lot of persistence --- perseverance is the actual term we like to use. If we get the level of violence down to a point where the Iraqi security forces are more than capable of dealing with it, the insurgency's days will eventually come to an end. And they will come to an end at the hands of the Iraqis, who, by definition, will always be perceived as more legitimate than an external force like our own." [Inquirer] 

Wow, you know, with unlimited time and resources we could beat the insurgency, too. Of course, if we just wait long enough, these insurgents we're fighting now will simply die of old age; we just have to wait them out. Rummy says, "ultimately they will fail. It's going to take time, and its going tot take a lot of hard work by people who believe in freedom." Unfortunately, the people he's relying on to keep up the fight are the same few hundred thousand that he keeps sending back there to fight again and again.  

But, there's good news on the horizon. AP reports that the UN issued a report this week saying that "al-Qaeda's activity will diminish as violence escalates and distinctions blur among sectarian attacks, criminal acts and the fight against Iraqi and non-Iraqi forces."  Boy, that's good to know. [AP] 

As bad as things are though, Bob Woodward tells 60-Minutes this week that it's worse than we know. Surprisingly, it turns out that the Bush Administration is covering up just how bad things are in Iraq and he says we should expect it to get much worse next year. "It's getting to the point now where there are eight-, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That's four an hour attacking our forces. The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse, and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon saying, 'Oh, no, things are going to get better.'" [AP]  

How could that be? I don't believe it! This administration wouldn't lie, would they? Sounds like the enemy's propaganda to me.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:32 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 September 2006 1:33 PM EDT
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Friday, 22 September 2006
On civil war and Alberto Gonzales' green light for torture.
Topic: Iraq

AP reports today: "The Iraqi conflict is changing from a fight against U.S.-led coalition forces to an internal power struggle, the top U.S. general in Iraq said yesterday." General George Casey says, "We’re starting to see this conflict here transition from an insurgency against us to a struggle for the division of political and economic power among the Iraqis." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the very definition of a civil war?

Meanwhile, the building of the 60-mile trench around Baghdad continues apace, the AP story reporting that, "Viewed from the air, the network of irrigation canals and ditches almost completely ringing the capital is clear." Casey says, "The notion is push the bad guys out, and then gradually go back and reclear areas so that people feel safe in their own neighborhoods."  But, aren't the bad guys already in the city? I mean, they're not coming in from outside.  The main culprits in all the killing going on are the Shiites, specifically the Mahdi army, which controls most of the east of the city. It is all well and fine to chase the Sunni insurgents from one Sunni neighborhood to the other and block infiltration from Anbar, but the biggest concern is still the Shiites.  

The UN reported this week that 5,106 Iraqis were killed in July and August. And that was only in Baghdad! [AP] Killing is up in other regions of the country as well. The UN report says, though, it's difficult know exactly what's going on in some parts because the security situation is so bad. For example, Anbar province reports 0 deaths during July. Now, you know the Marines may be doing a great job at holding their own against al-Qaeda and the insurgents in Anbar, but no enough to keep the body count to zero!  

What is most shocking about how many these people are dying at the hands of Shiite death squads in Baghdad is the pure viciousness of the tactics they're using. The NYT reported this week that it's not only the death squads and criminal gangs that are responsible for the killing and torture but the security forces are also involved. (Well duh'!)

"Torture remains widespread, not only by death squads but also in official detention centers, according to UN officials. The report said some detainees showed signs of beating 'using electrical cables, wounds in different part of their bodies, including in the head and genitals, broken bones of the legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns. Bodies found in Baghdad, the report added, often show signs of torture that include 'acid-induced burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs) missing eyes, missing teeth and wounds caused by power drills or nails."  

A UN official, in fact said yesterday that the torture going on now is worse than during Saddam's regime. By the way, wasn't US AG Albero Gonzales just in Baghdad to help the government figure out what are and aren't permissible techniques for torture? We already know that back here in the US the White House can't figure out what all those vague prohibitions in Common Articel 3 of the Geneva Conventions really mean. Gonzales says in Iraq it's "difficult to decide what is appropriate," and it's equally "a difficult decision as to where to draw the line." But rest assured, he says, this "government has not engaged in torture," despite all the evidence to the contrary. [BBC]

You don't think Gonzales was there to give the Iraqi government the green light to torture, do you? Who, after all, would know better about what torture is? The torture memo Gonzales signed off on in 2003 outlined that waterboarding and live burials were A-OK with the then White House Counsel. It sure reads  like a how-to manuel for the Iraqi security forces. I don't know. . . 

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:18 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006 12:20 PM EDT
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Saturday, 16 September 2006
The Battle of Baghdad: a slight reprise:
Topic: Iraq

Not to say that things in Iraq are going from bad to horrible or anything but: the AP reports today that the Iraqi Interior Ministry is going to start building trenches around Baghdad -- Yes, trenches, you read it right. Apparently, this is the third part of "Operation Together Forward," a security crackdown that began June 15 and which was been widely successful (unless you take into account the 1,800 or so people being killed every month since it began).  

Part one apparently involved setting up check points, part 2 was the sealing off of mainly Sunni neighborhoods and going house to house, and part three is to cordon off Baghdad from the rest of the country and begin going into Shiite districts. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, there will be "28 inlets into Baghdad while all other inlets will be blocked. Supports will be added to the trenches to hinder movements of people and vehicles. The trenches will be under our watch."  

Boy I don't know about you, but I feel better already. This sort of thing has worked out so well in Ramadi, Fallujah and Tal Afar, why not just dig 60 miles of trenches around the capital city to show everyone how confident you are about your ability to get the country under control. And while they're at it, why not make everyone carry biometric identity cards, like the citizens of Fallujah have to? There are only about 6 million people in Baghdad, that shouldn't cause much trouble.  

This whole thing has got to be a joke, right? What are the chances that building trenches around the entire city of Baghdad is going to have any effect on the violence going on there? I would say about the same as setting up road blocks and going house to house. Zilch! So this is the "defining moment, the defining battle of the war," according to General George Casey? (I thought that was Fallujah in November of 2004). The plan is to hide behind trenches?  

'whack-a-mole' is not working: 

Not that the military is over stretched or anything, but the US military is pulling troops from other parts of the country and rushing them into the "Battle of Baghdad." (Didn't we already win that thing back in April of 2003?) Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli says stopping the sectarian violence is a higher priority then going after the insurgents. He said, "the main effort is in Baghdad, and we must ensure that we weight the main effort." That's fine, but al-Anbar is in pretty piss-poor shape right now, too. In fact, it's so out of control that a Marine intelligence officer has said in a secret report that although we haven't been beaten militarily, "we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost." [WaPo]  So I guess pulling troops out won't make a difference anyway, right?  

Yanking troops out of Anbar to keep Baghdad from imploding would appear to me to be a pretty desperate gambit. Just how bad are things in Iraq? According to a NEWSWEEK article, "privately, senior U.S. officials say the Iraqi government has only a few months to stop the killing or collapse." Now, I can see why instead of the promised troop reductions that were being talked about in the summer, units scheduled to go home are being held up and sent to Baghdad.   

The sad tale of the 172nd Stryker Brigade: 

Like, for instance, the 172nd Stryker Brigade from Fairbanks, Alaska. The 172nd has been in Iraq for over a year and they were scheduled to go home last month. Instead, they were told to pack up and move to Baghdad. Apparently, they've been the victims of their own success; a NEWSWEEK article about Blackhawk Company 4-23 infantry battalion, says that after a year in Iraq, they've lost only 20 injured of their 4000 troops and no one has been killed in action. Their Stryker armored vehicles are "almost indestructible" which has made them an ideal item to have in Baghdad's mean streets.  

Unfortunately, although their vehicles might be indestructible, the people inside them are not; particularly when they're not in them, a concern being expressed by families of the 4-23. The soldiers say they're spending most of their time outside their Strykers, doing what the Iraqi security forces should be doing. In a meeting with family members back in August, Rummy got an earful about this. One woman complained to Rummy that, "My husband hasn’t set foot in a Stryker since he arrived in Baghdad." Rummy answered that "Over 90 percent of the house clearings are being handled by the Iraqis."

At this point, according to the NEWSWEEK article, women in the audience started shouting "no!" and "that's not true." Rummy shot back, "Don't say 'No,' that's what I've been told. It's the task of the Iraqis to go through the buildings." [This is also the same guy who said he knew exactly where the WMD were.]  Members of the 4-23 say they, not the Iraqis, do 95 percent of the house clearing. "'I'd like to punch [Rummy] in the gut, says one seasoned NCO on his second Iraq tour. He treats us like we're not human. He acts like he's not destroying families.'"  

Where do I sign up?   

Looks like that guy needs a few more deployments to Iraq to straighten out that attitude; but morale is high, just look at all the National Guard soldiers falling all over each other to go back. The Philly Inquirer reported this week that "in Pennsylvania, 500 of the 15,000 members of Army National Guard and 10 of the 4000 Air National Guard have chosen to go back. In New Jersey, 2 to 5 percent of the Army National Guard and about 20 percent of the Air National Guard's 2,300 have volunteered to return."  

That's alright, there's always Stop Loss, the Individual Ready Reserve, and sleazy recruiters ready to threaten potential recruits with jail if they don't sign on the dotted line. Rummy once said "you go to war with the Army you have, not the one you would like," but right now he's lucky to have the remnants of what he originally went in with. Maybe, we can ask NATO for some troops?  

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:25 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 16 September 2006 3:27 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 6 September 2006
W.'s not talking about this war anymore.
Topic: Iraq

In his big speech at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City on Thursday, W. said those who say Iraq is headed toward civil war are just dead wrong. "Our commanders and diplomats on the ground in Iraq believe that it's not the case. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority wants peace and a normal life."  

I wonder which commanders and diplomats he's talking to, because his own Ambassador in Baghdad sent a secret memo back to Washington last month outlining the dire situation his embassy staff are facing simply trying to get to work everyday and the pentagon just yesterday gave a pretty bleak assessment of the situation to Congress reporting that: "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife...Conditions that could lead to a civil war exist in Iraq." The report also says that militias are more entrenched then ever in Baghdad neighborhoods and are seen by most Iraqis as the only providers of security and protection they have.

It is amazing that W. and Co. have launched this new "say the course" PR campaign in the midst of some of the worse violence Iraq has ever seen (and that's saying something). If Karl Rove thinks highlighting the "successes" of the new security crackdown in Baghdad is going to win votes in November, he'd better go back to the drawing board. In the past week, over 400 Iraqis have died along with 15 US troops. After five weeks of “Operation Together Forward" things have gone from very bad to horrifically awful.

The deployment of some 12,000 US and Iraqi security forces to Baghdad has apparently only exacerbated the violence inside the city.  As we've seen in other crackdowns, notably in Fallujah II, the insurgents have simply redeployed to other neighborhoods in Baghdad and cities around Iraq while the US forces go from house to house in areas devoid of insurgents. Fighting in the south and in the north, especially in Kirkuk, has rammed up. On Wednesday, an all out 12-hour battle between Shiite militias and Iraqi Army units in Diwaniya, 80-miles south of Baghdad, led to the deaths of  80 militia fighters and 20 Iraqi soldiers. During the battle about a dozen Iraqi soldiers were taken into the town square and executed by their militia captors when they ran out of ammunition. [Looks like the idea of us just sitting back and providing logistical support needs to be tweaked a bit] [AP]

In some whacko corners of the punditry the fact that Iraqi forces were able to hang with the militias for so long was seen a promising sign. To most sane people watching this catastrophe unfold it should have been seen as a sign that the old paradigm of the war in Iraq, the typical hit and run small insurgent unit engagements, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. We're now seeing supposedly rag-tag groups of militia gunmen engaging division sized Iraqi army units in set piece battles. For their part, the Sunni insurgents are also showing the ability to fight in large organized formations against US Marines in Ramadi.  Even the run-of-the-mill insurgent car bombings and mortar attacks are becoming even more spectacular.

On Thursday, Sunni insurgents set off bombs they'd planted in apartments; they had previously rented, and leveled an entire block in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. Edward Wong reported in the NYT that "the attack appeared to be a well-organized strike on areas controlled by the Mahdi Army. . .Police officials counted seven explosions from a combination of car bombs and rocket or mortar fire." The attacks killed 43 and wounded over 200.   

Starting a war within the war: 

Naturally, these attacks will only inspire more Shiite revenge attacks on Sunni neighborhoods in the south and west and no matter how many troops we pump into the fight we're not going to be able to stop it. But don't tell that to the brains trusters in the Iraqi Defense Ministry. As if things weren't bad enough already, they're preparing to go after the Mahdi Army on its own turf. The AP reported today that Defense Ministry spokesman, Muhammad al-Askari, says "no neighborhood is off-limits. There's not a single neighborhood that's a red line for us. Any area that has terrorist activity, we will enter -- there will be no stop sign."

The American commander of the 101st Airborne says the only thing these militias understand is "a big stick," so that's what they're going to get. I'd say if we're going to go after Muqtada al-Sadr again we'd better bring a stick the size of a California Redwood, because we're talking about starting another war within the war. It's been recognized for quite a while now that the Mahdi Army is an even bigger danger to Iraq than the insurgency is. The question is what to do about it. Al-Sadr himself has supposedly been leaning toward "moderation" because his political Party, the Sadr Trend, has 30 seats in the parliament. He has a lot of political clout within the Iraqi government, because he was instrumental in getting Nouri al-Maliki into the PM job. But is al-Sadr in any position to deal? Newsweek reported last month that there's a new wrinkle to the Sadr story: 

"The Mahdi Army's leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, seems to be losing his grip on the thousands of armed men who once followed his every word. 'There are forces that are controlled by Moqtada, but there are commanders that are not controlled by him.; there are death squads that are not controlled by him,' U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilizad told NEWSWEEK. The situation is so volatile that, according to the U.S. officials, Sadr now fears for his own safety and position." 

In fact, many of these disparate factions of the Mahdi Army are getting their marching orders from Iran. So whereas it might have been possible to come to some sort of accommodation with al-Sadr after the elections in January, it now appear as if even he's no longer a viable player. It seems in this situation, as well, that Iran is holding all the cards. If the US and Iraqi forces really go after the Mahdi Army, they'll have to not only fight them in Baghdad but also in Najaf and in Basra, where Sadr is vying for control with the Badr Organization (also controlled by Iran). In this new scenario, our troops will be fighting the Sunnis in Anbar and western Baghdad at the same time they're re-fighting the Mahdi Army, a force that now numbers about 140,000; about three times the number when we fought them to a draw back in 2004.  

I don't know, call me crazy, but something tells me our 140,000 troops fighting along side 200,000 very shaky Iraqi units that are prone to desert at the drop of a hat if they don't like their deployment orders, or just unexpectedly decide to run away, doesn't look like a very promising strategy for victory. If we're about to get involved in taking on both sides in this civil war, we should seriously consider reinstituting the draft. Calling up 26,000 Marine reservists isn't going to do the trick.  

The "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century?"  

 W. says pulling our troops out of  Iraq now would be "absolutely disastrous. . .We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies -- Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and al-Qaeda terrorists from all over the world, who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban."  It looks like al-Qaeda already has a perfectly fine base of operations in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas --but regardless, if he really thinks this war in Iraq is "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,"  then he'd better get serious about waging it.

If we're going to take on all comers in Iraq; launch preemptive strikes on Iran's nuclear infrastructure; successfully defeat the resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan; help Israel deal with their Hezbollah and Hamas problems; and have enough assets left over to deal with the ever present possibility of a North Korean freak-out or a Chinese attack on Taiwan, we're going to need a much bigger military. If the war in Lebanon showed us nothing else (as if Vietnam wasn't enough of a lesson), it showed us that strategic air strikes are useless when waging asymmetrical warfare.   

In the summer of 1940 FDR was able to squeak through Congress the Selective Service Act while we were still at peace because he could see what was coming with the German take over of Europe. He very responsibly analyzed the coming threat and rushed to prepare this nation for a major conflict. In 2003, this administration launched an invasion of a country that was absolutely no threat to this country and neglected to adequately prepare for any contingencies contrary to the rosy predictions of deluded chicken hawks. The consequences of these actions have placed our military in an untenable position. Our national security hangs in the balance and this administration continues to dither.  

PR campaigns aren't going to provide the tens of thousands of more troops we need to conduct the war in Iraq. It is beyond irresponsible to keep sending the same units to Iraq again and again; for two, three or  four tours and still expect to have any kind of viable fighting force left in the end.


But never mind about all that; they found another al-Qaeda number two man. You know what happened when they killed #1 guy, so prepare for much worse to come.

 Better change the subject. Talk about all the successes of the war on terror . . .

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:31 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006 7:34 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 July 2006
Closer to the gates of hell...
Topic: Iraq

That last post I wrote on Saturday, before the Shiites went on a rampage pulling Sunnis out of cars in the al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad and making the streets flow with blood. On Monday, PM Nuri al-Maliki called for Iraqis to "unite as brothers" but his words seem to be falling on deaf ears and he hasn't said much since. The killing goes on and what's most worrying -- well there's a whole lot most worrying -- is that right after the Shiites started rounding up Sunnis on Sunday, supposedly in retaliation for a bombing at a Shiite mosque, the Sunnis came right back with bombing another Shiite mosque. Where as before these types of tit-for-tat attacks came over a period of days, now they're coming in real-time, sort of like a real war.

Typically, as all hell was breaking loose on Sunday, Muqtada al-Sadr called for calm; which means it was his Mahdi Army doing the killing. Whenever, he comes out and calls for calm you know it's him, just like after the Feb 22 mosque bombing in Samarra. While he was sounding all reasonable, his militiamen were roaming around Sunni neighborhoods in official police vehicles, shooting up Sunni mosques and gunning down anyone who moved.

In this most recent violence, the police just stood by and watched, as usual, and US forces were no where to be seen; they only moved in hours later to survey the smoldering ruins and the burning bodies. I don't think US commanders are quite ready to confront the Madhi Army, which is what they'd have to do if they want to get a handle of this situation. I'm assuming, of course, that at this point we really have the fire power to deal with Sadr's fighters. Since we tangled with them back in 2004, where we fought them to a standstill, they've bulked up quite a bit.

Their numbers are now estimated to be at about 140,000 fighters and they've got some heavy duty firepower of their own, thanks to us. While we've been busy declaring this the "year of the police" they've been busy infiltrating the interior ministries, helping themselves all the weapons and fancy new uniforms we've been providing, and on top of that, al-Sadr's party in the parliament controls the Heath and Transportation ministries. If you were wondering where all these fake police check points and phony arrests are coming from, look no further than the Madhi army. They have access to all the police cars they want.

TheWaPo reported today that a reporter in the al-Jihad neighborhood was with a man who called 130, the police emergency number to report the Shiites arriving to kill everyone:

"The Mahdi Army has attacked Amiriyah," he told the Interior Ministry dispatcher. 'The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you,' said the dispatcher at the ministry, which is controlled by a Shiite party and operates closely with militias. 'They are people doing their duty. And how could you know that they are the Mahdi Army? Is it written on their foreheads?' He hung up the phone." [Geez, and I thought being put on hold when I called 911 in DC was a problem!]

Meanwhile, Rummy has made another "surprise" visit to Iraq, just in time to watch his most famous blunder blow in his face. In the past three days deaths from sectarian fighting has reached over 100 in Iraq. Yesterday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up right in front of a three busy entrances of the Green Zone and then a third bomb went off a little later accounting for 15 deaths all tolled.

The Mujahadeen Shura Council claimed responsibility for the first two and the Islamic Army for the third, in retaliation they say for the rape and killing of an Iraqi family by US soldiers in Mahmudiya, according to the NYT. On Monday, the WaPo reported that the Mujahadeen Shura Council also claimed responsibility for the killing, torture and mutilation of three US troops as punishment for the same killings. Something tells me we haven't heard the last of the exploits of Pfc. Steven Green and his band of merry marauders.

I hear in the press that the Iraqis don't seem to be getting too worked up about the attack by Green and Co.. I suppose that might be a good thing, but when you consider the average Iraqi already suspects that our troops are doing this sort of thing all the time, it isn't exactly a good sign that they're not more upset. Although, the Iraqi civilians on the street might be too preoccupied with avoiding getting, kidnapped, blown up or shot to really be caring about yet another American atrocity these days, the Iraqi government is certainly taking note.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, the Iraqi National Security Advisor, told Newsweek that Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 would have to be renegotiated with the US forces. This is one of the poison pills L. Paul Bremer stuck the Iraqis with as he got out of Dodge that makes US troops immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts for crimes they commit in country. "There is no way we accept CPA Order 17 anymore," Rubaie said. "We cannot go on having these unfortunate incidents repeated, and we have to work on stopping them from happening again."

The Iraqis are of the mind that the US doesn't exactly go out of their way to punish soldiers and that CPA Order 17 makes some troops feel that they can get away with anything. One Iraqi official referred to past trials of soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal as "theater." So, all in all, I'd say, Rummy probably had a very interesting time talking with his Iraqi "partners."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:33 PM EDT
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Iraq at the gates of hell?
Topic: Iraq

For all of you wondering where I've been this past month or so, just go over to Non Sum Dignus to catch up. I'm going to try real hard to get back to doing the foreign policy stuff here and the domestic politics over to NSD again. My new job doesn't leave me a lot of time to do both blogs and on top of that I've started a new blog at democraticunderground.com that is taking even more attention away from this page.

In any case, there is a whole lot of stuff going on in the world these days, and W. & co. have a full plate of disasters to try and juggle. Here's where we see whether they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Iraq seems to have been knocked right off the front page as news of North Korea's missile launches have been dominating the news cycle since the 4th of July. Have no fear, though, if you haven't been paying attention things are still as bloody and aweful as ever over there. On the 5th the NYT reported that the central morgue in Baghdad has recieved 1,595 bodies over the past month, a 16% rise from May.

Remember, this comes a month after the US killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Whatever disruption his death may have caused al-Qaeda it appears they've pretty much worked it out. Even US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had to admit that "in terms of violence, it [Zarqawi's death] has not had any impact at this point. As you know, the level of violence is still quite high."

Not to say that all these deaths are attributable to al-Qaeda, most of them appear to be the result of Iraq's raging sectarian civil war (remember that?). Sabrina Tavernese writes in the Times that, "Baghdad, home to one-forth of Iraq's population, has slowly decended into a low-grade civil war in some neighborhoods, with Sunni and Shiite militias carrying out systematic sectarian killings that clear whole city blocks." In fact, last month as the Iraqi government was launching its "crack down"in Baghdad, two militias fought a running battle in the heart of the city on Haifa Street right under the noses of US and Iraqi forces. There's an all out battle for control of Baghdad and we're not invited. This is between the various Shiite factions and the Sunnis.

And in realilty; though the administration would like to have a Pentagon approved al-Qaeda boggyman to focus everyone's attention on for the propaganda department's flashy war on terror's most wanted sound-bites; al-Qaeda is no match in the massacre business for the tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen who kill Sunnis like no body's business. This administration has been insisting from the begining that we had to invade Iraq as a response to 9/11, but the fact is that the groups most responsible for the choas in Iraq are the Shiites, our allies.

While W. & co. are trying to convince us that if we don't fight them over there we'll have to fight them here, the Iraqi government is more concerned with settling old scores. Our partners in the war on terror think Saddam's daughters (he's clean out of sons) are a bigger threat to Iraq than al-Qaeda is. On their "most wanted list" the top spots are reserved for former Baathists (Sunnis), while al-Qaeda's new "leader," Hamza al-Muhajer (if he even really exists), only comes in at #30 out of 41. The Shiite government and their militias are the real problem, but we can't fit losing hundreds more US troops to deal with them into the war on terror narrative.

The great irony here is that we're fighting the wrong people. When we do leave Iraq, we're going to wind up making the same insurgents who are killing about one Marine a day in Anbar province our newest, best buddies. Except for the small group of Takfiris, who are mainly foreigners, the Iraqi Sunnis are basically secular in outlook, and most importantly, they hate the Iranians.

This "democratic" government we've created in Iraq takes its religious lead from Tehran and the vacuum left behind by our departure is going to be filled by Iran. In that case we'll need to hire the Sunni insurgents to make sure Iraq remains unstable and creates the same albatross around their necks as it has been around ours.

The truth is that Baghdad is totally griped by anarchy: The violence is even moving into sections of the city that up until now have been relativly safe like the Mansour district, where all the big shots live. (Ahmad Chilabi has had two of his cars blown up, so you know things are getting bad.) The insurgency is moving ever closer to the Green Zone and it appears they'll have it completly surrounded sooner rather than later.

And Iraqi citizens who work in the Green Zone report that they're finding it more and more dangerous to keep working there, a secret State Department memo says. Taken all together, one can't but come to the conclusion that what has been up until now a country teetering on the brink of total collapse, held together only by the sheer will and might of the US military, has reached its tipping point and is rapidly approachng the point of no return. Unless we're willing to send in about 100,000 more troops, which we are not, the whole thing is going to hell.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:20 PM EDT
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Monday, 12 June 2006
Victory right around the corner in Iraq?
Topic: Iraq

In recognition of the tremendous victory of killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last Wednesday, the Iraq "government" the next day announced a "victory curfew" for Friday prayers. All vehicle traffic was banned from Baghdad and Baquba, where Zarqawi was killed, to prevent the expected backlash from "al-Qaeda in Iraq," which really shows you how confident that they really have a handle on things now. Although, it's great news that Zarqawi was killed and the military was able to get hold of lots of intel that could help them roll up other al-Qaeda cells around Iraq, the fact is that al-Qaeda only represents probably about 5% of all the insurgents fighting us; they're not that big of a deal...or are they?

Some commentators like Trudy Rubin of the Inquirer have bought into the administration's myth-making by giving Zarqawi way too much credit for what's going on over there. She claimed in a column this Sunday that he was "spectacularly successful in his efforts to make Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis kill each other," as if he created the centuries of hatred between the two sides. It really didn't take much effort did it? Even more absurd was the old fossil from the Reagan administration I heard on NPR last week breathlessly recount how Zarqawi had single-handedly taken over Fallujah in 2004--- a city of 300,000 --- by sheer force of his will. That ridiculous assertion is even more amazing when you consider he wasn't even in Fallujah. (He must have had magical powers, too.)

The reality is that we probably did a favor for his bunch of crazies by making him a martyr and we also very cleverly eliminated a problem for the homegrown Iraqi insurgency. They didn't like Zarqawi and his foreign fighters any more than we did. Now, instead of having to worry about him and his lunatics in their rear they can get back to focusing on us. But then again, we're not really their biggest problem anymore, the Shiite militias who are firmly entrenched within the Iraqi government's security infrastructure are. Over the past six months they've been responsible for at least 6000 Iraqi deaths.

Besides the appearance of dozens of bodies at the Baghdad morgue on a daily basis, last week saw some pretty spectacular and brazen death-squad activity. Last Sunday gunmen set up roadblocks outside of Baghdad and seized two minibuses full of school students and killed 20 of them. On Monday, AP reported gunmen in police uniforms kidnapped 50 people in a business district of Baghdad randomly grabbing "travelers, merchants, and venders selling tea and sandwiches." (Where they were taken or whether they're still alive is unknown.)

It's interesting how the media still doesn't just come right out and say these attacks are being led by government security forces, which they clearly are. It's an Iraqi government fiction to keep insisting that these roving death-squads might be insurgents dressed up as police. Since the Interior Ministry is riddled with Badr Brigade militiamen, and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army has a firm grip on the transportation ministry, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how these guys happened to have police uniforms and more than a dozen vehicles ready to transport their victims. The tell-tale pictures of Moqtada on most of the police vehicles on the streets of Baghdad should be a dead give away, but I guess not.

The "government:"

It's all well and fine that after six months the Iraqi government has finally got around to forming a full cabinet, but I don't see what difference it’s going to make. The new PM and his cabinet don't actually have any power to do anything. They don't provide electricity, water or security and al-Sadr's bunch runs the heath ministry, which he uses to provide patronage not medical care, so what do they really do? Adnan Pachachi, the only sane person in the parliament, says of al-Maliki, "He talks about using an iron fist against the people, but I don't think he has sufficient power. There are so many forces competing with each other. This is not a cohesive government." (He might have added that it isn't a government at all.)

A case in point is al-Maliki's much touted visit to Basra last week where he declared a state of emergency and again vowed to use his much vaunted "iron fist" to bring an end to fighting there. Despite this threat, though, violence is continuing there as Iranian backed militias consolidate their hold on the south.

The Inquirer reported on the 28th of May that the south is:

"now dominated by Shiite Muslim warlords and militiamen who are laying the groundwork for an Islamic fundamentalist government, say senior British and Iraqi official in the area. The militias appear to be supported by Iranian intelligence or military units that are shipping weapons to the militias in Iraq and providing training for them in Iran. A week with British troops in Maysan and Basra provinces and three additional days of reporting in Basra made it clear that Iraqis here are at the mercy of Shiite militia death squads and Iranian friendly clerics who have imposed an ever-stricter code of de facto Islamic law."

One of the major issues that will be coming up in the new Iraqi parliament --- provided the whole thing doesn't collapse in the next month --- is the controversy over autonomy for the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. Remember, this issue was deferred in the debate over an Iraqi constitution so that the Iraqis would have something to vote on. It's pretty obvious now that the south is already lost. The Shiites have already created their own facts on the ground; it would appear to be all over except for the shouting.
The only reason the Shiite parties even participated in the elections in December was to legitimize their position and cover their aspirations to take over the south with the patina of democracy.

While our Marines are fighting the Sunnis to a bloody standstill in Anbar, in a battle to see who will control the desert, the Shiites and the Iranians are solidifying their hold over the oil in the south which will put them in a very powerful position to call the shots down the road. Once the Shiites are able to ram autonomy for the regions through the parliament and the country is broken up into little pieces, the Iraqi "government of national unity" will be nothing but a rump consultative body. Almost 2,500 dead US troops and a trillion dollars is a pretty high price to pay for a new oil-rich Bosnia.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:01 PM EDT
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